For decades, those who believed in a conspiracy plot in the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., clung to his story as part of the proof for their case.
But with the death this past weekend of former Memphis Police Officer Edward Redditt, we are reminded that one moment does not make the total sum of a man's life.
Ordinary men are often thrust into extraordinary situations.
But, Mr. Redditt's chance to perhaps have become a major part of history ended with only an order, to go home.
To his regret, and that of history he followed that order.
He should be regarded as more than just a strange human footnote in an American tragedy. Yet, as the years passed the former African-American police officer found fewer and fewer people wanted to hear his story of what happened to him on a fateful day on April 4, 1968.
It was a day that began with Mr. Redditt expecting to take up his assigned post providing surveillance for the Memphis Police Department's-then Domestic Intelligence Unit - formed to watch the activities of Dr. King as he stayed at the Lorraine Motel across the street from Mr. Redditt, posted at the fire station.
Hours before the assassination of the Civil Rights leader, Mr. Redditt was urgently summoned to come to the police directors' office.
"He had actually been spotted and recognized and spotted as doing some surveillance for the police department, since he was a police officer - even though he was in plain clothes," recalls Bill Dries, Memphis Daily News reporter. "Some of the firefighters, apparently from what we now know, gave him a pretty hard time, in effect spying on Dr. King from the firehouse."
"The police director at the time, Frank Holloman, told him that there had been threats on his life and that's why he was moved out of the firehouse," Dries added.
As he would testify before a closed door session of the United States House Special Assassination Committee in the 1970s, at the insistence of the FBI, Mr. Redditt was ordered to go home and former Police Director Holloman provided an escort to go with him.
That's where he found out of Dr. King's assassination.
Mr. Redditt would grant few formal interviews after his testimony, although he was not averse to explain his bizarre role in what some still feel was a conspiratorial plot. Yet, with his death on Sunday, at the age of 81, we are reminded that Mr. Redditt, by just being in the position of an African-American on the Memphis police force at the time, was making history of his own.
After Dr. King's assassination, Mr. Redditt would be among those who tried to help in the healing process of a divided city, and that alone should earn a historical footnote.
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